Mozilla enabled ads in Firefox and they're active in Fedora

Lars Seipel lars.seipel at
Sat Nov 15 13:25:48 UTC 2014

So Mozilla has recently gone live with its advertisement tiles on the
"New Tab" page. Only newly created profiles get to see this stuff.

On a pristine F21 install using Gnome, when first launching Firefox,
users are presented with a number of tiles, depending on screen size.
One of those is a so-called "sponsored" tile chosen from a range of
available advertisements (e.g. for, there's also one for the
Snowden movie), apparently depending on geographical location.

When this "feature" got originally announced[1], there was a discussion
on -devel if this kind of stuff is really appropriate for Fedora.

Some time later Mozilla seemed to have canceled the feature, quoting
"That’s not going to happen. That’s not who we are at Mozilla." as one
of the reasons[2].

Apparently, they (again) reconsidered, pushing the feature to nightlies
a few months ago. Well, it now hit the stable branch and, therefore,

This is how Mozilla pitches the feature to advertisers[3]:

> To support ad personalization, Mozilla created an internal data system
> that aggregates user information while stripping out personally
> identifiable information. Mozilla can track impressions, clicks, and the
> number of ads a user hides or pins. Its advertising partners are also
> privy to that data.

Personally, I don't think that showing advertisements on the free
software desktop is appropriate. Our users are supposed to be able to
fully trust our software. That's one of our most-often touted strenghts.
I don't think the ability to "track impressions, clicks, and the number
of ads a user hides or pins" is something that is compatible with that,
regardless of this data being tied to "personally identifiable
information" or not.

Firefox's behaviour is probably nothing extraordinary on the other
platforms Mozilla is targeting. Compared to the prevalent attitude of
proprietary vendors, especially on mobile, it doesn't sound that bad
anymore. I don't think that's a suitable scale for Fedora, though.

>From a user perspective, it's not that hard to disable the feature. Upon
first seeing that page a tooltip is shown to hint at the possibility.
Users can choose between three modes, "Enhanced", "Classic" and "Blank".
Contrary to what is stated in the Mozilla kb[4], the only one that
actually disables the ads is "Blank", which is equal to setting the new
tab page to about:blank.

What does the community think of it? Is it okay for our flagship
applications to carry ads and report tracking data?


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